Author: has written 142 posts for this blog.

Chally is a student by day, a freelance writer by night, a scary, scary feminist all the time, and a voracious reader whenever she has a spare moment. She also blogs at Zero at the Bone. Full bio here.
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57 Responses

  1. Charles
    Charles January 17, 2011 at 3:09 pm |

    As an asexual person, I agree with all of this – and it’s curious, actually, since involvement in the feminist community online was what led me to question my own sexuality because of the dominant narrative of healthy sexuality as an active and enthusiastic participation in sexual activity, which is something in which I have just never had any interest.

    Also, chally, I’m the author of Asexual Adolescence, but I moved location to the website I have listed here with my comment about two weeks ago after I found out that my father had a link to it (and, as a closeted transguy who had written somewhat extensively about his gender at that location, I didn’t feel comfortable knowing that such thoughts were in a place my dad could access before I’d come out to him), so it might be prudent to change the link at the end of your post, since I’m no longer posting at my old address. I’m flattered that you’ve listed me at all, though.

  2. RMJ
    RMJ January 17, 2011 at 3:23 pm |

    Nice post, Chally. Charles, I’m glad you commented – I was going through your archives and getting sad that there were no new posts!

  3. David Jay
    David Jay January 17, 2011 at 3:30 pm |

    Another Ace weighing in: I give a bunch of workshops to queer/feminist groups where we focus on tackling exactly this issue: What does it look like to simultaneously be sex positive and asex positive?

    It’s a fun little mental exercise, because it forces you to ask whether there’s something beyond sex that sex positivity is celebrating. Finding and holding that nugget is important, otherwise you risk creating a community where a lack of sexual desire becomes taboo, which is problematic for reasons that go way beyond asexuality.

    What if you had a community which celebrated powerful connections with others, sexual or otherwise? What if you had a community which celebrated powerful connections, period (including spiritual connections, connections with cats, connections with young adult novels, etc.) ? These sorts of communities don’t preclude an active, healthy discussion about sex, since that’s a big part of how a lot of people connect, but they acknowledge that sex is part of some larger discussion.

  4. Lori
    Lori January 17, 2011 at 3:30 pm |

    Thank you for writing this! I have to say, as an ardent feminist for over 20 years, one thing that has always bothered me was the notion, often implied, that people who aren’t into sex, or at least don’t view it as an important part of their life, are automatically damaged or repressed. I’m all for the right to be sexual, but also, the right to be asexual. (Me, and others I knew, chose not be sexual as teenagers, and were called prudes, frigid, and other derogatory names.) In the feminist community, we protest slut-shaming, as part of our fight for women’s sexual freedom. And yet we continue to look down on people who don’t view sex as necessary, important or fulfilling. So thank you, Chally, for writing this.

  5. Neth Dugan
    Neth Dugan January 17, 2011 at 3:38 pm |

    I’m an asexual myself and I’ve no problems with your article, and agree with what you’ve said in it.

    Being asexual doesn’t mean you can’t be sex positive. For the majority of people out there, their sexuality is being sexual and not asexual. To me, being sex positive means that everyone should have the freedom to express their sexuality, whatever that me, in a way they are comfortable with, however that may be. Unless doing so harms another who can’t consent to it.

    Which means ‘slut shaming’ is wrong, and trying to force bisexuals to be either gay or straight is wrong, but so is trying to force us asexuals to become sexual, to act sexual and think sexual.

    So yes, I agree that that asexuality and sex positivity isn’t mutually exclusive. Even if the latter has been battering at us to the point where a good number of us seem to think ‘sex positive’ means ‘bully the asexuals’ so don’t call it that.

    And yeah, thanks for the article. And hey, you listed Charles on there!

  6. Becca Stareyes
    Becca Stareyes January 17, 2011 at 4:05 pm |

    It seems like the depiction of not-conventionally-attractive-and-fit*/minority characters as non-sexual and the stigma against asexuality in ‘healthy’ (aka not these things) characters/people are two signs of the same coin: that the culture that produces them basically sees interest in sex as ‘normal’, so all ‘normal’ people want it and for anyone to not want it, they must be damaged in some way, or otherwise undesirable.

    So, I agree. ‘Sex-positive’ should be recast as ‘sexuality-positive’, including the idea that ‘some people are asexual and/or aromantic and that is part of the normal human continuum of sexuality’. I don’t know what that means, besides the general work for a fair and honest representation of asexual people.

    * Disabled characters, overweight characters, old characters.

  7. GallingGalla
    GallingGalla January 17, 2011 at 4:25 pm |

    Thanks for this, Chally. I think that claiming my sexuality has meant my acknowledging that I’m asexual and that asexuality *is* a sexuality that is as legitimate as any other kind of sexuality. And so what if my being asexual comes out of trauma? Since when does that make asexuality any less legitimate? I mean, if the argument advanced by some anti-porn radfems that women only participate in BDSM because they’re traumatized is pretty much seen (on this blog, anyway!) as taking away women’s sexual agency, then isn’t claiming that asexuality is illegitimate because we’re just wounded souls also removing sexual agency?

    I think that the notion that asexual people can’t have long-term relationships, or at best that we can only “have friends”, is pretty busted.

    just to note, asexuality and romantic orientation are not mutally exclusive for all asexual people, and some asexual people do have sex

    This is an important point. While I’m asexual, my affectional orientation is towards women and non-binary-gender folks. In a perfect world, I’d have a loving, affectionate, physically demonstrative but non-sexual relationship with another asexual person. Also, my being asexual also doesn’t mean that nothing ever happens “down there”; there are things that arouse me, but I’m just not interested in acting upon that arousal. On a related note, I’ve had some on-again-off-again BDSM experiences, and while *thinking* about what I’d like BDSM-wise sometimes arouses me, when I actually get tied up, that experience is totally non-sexual and non-arousing, yet is incredibly enjoyable.

    David Jay: What if you had a community which celebrated powerful connections with others, sexual or otherwise? What if you had a community which celebrated powerful connections, period (including spiritual connections, connections with cats, connections with young adult novels, etc.) ? These sorts of communities don’t preclude an active, healthy discussion about sex, since that’s a big part of how a lot of people connect, but they acknowledge that sex is part of some larger discussion. David Jay

    This.

  8. Comrade Kevin
    Comrade Kevin January 17, 2011 at 5:06 pm |

    I acknowledge that I’m not as aware of asexuality as I should be, and will use this post as a way to learn more about it. But as for the discussion of what is sexually normal or healthy, though we may advocate that women embrace their sexual selves, there are still necessary boundaries and parameters that dictate a healthy sexuality. Freeing a person from experiencing needless guilt is an important step, but it shouldn’t end there.

    We can push so hard to advance our causes sometimes that we unintentionally obscure individual choice, or worse yet, fail to see nuance. And ultimately, the question remains whether we can reshape the context of emotions like loneliness or sadness, perhaps determining their proper proportion in human existence. Part of what we aim to do is preserve a necessary balance of emotions, while still reducing needless agony for those whose right to express themselves has been repressed.

  9. Sciatrix
    Sciatrix January 17, 2011 at 5:41 pm |

    Ah. Thank you for this, and thank you for linking to me. Overall I agree with the general content of the post.

    There’s another issue I’ve really noticed when sex-positive writers write about asexuality, though: the issue of asexuals dating nonasexuals. Because the fact that there are so few of us, and fewer that know what asexuality even is, a lot of romantic asexuals end up dating nonasexual people. Which leads to some fairly obvious issues, particularly if you’re dealing with a monogamous relationship. In my experience, every asexual/non-asexual couple I’ve talked to about it handles those differently. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

    That’s not what I wanted to talk about, though. What I wanted to talk about is that every time I see this come up on a feminist or sex-positive site, the asexual person in such a relationship–theoretical or not–is almost immediately demonized, usually in the comments. Forget nuance, I have seen people portray such asexuals as evil people deliberately entrapping good normal sexual people into sexless (and by implied extension) loveless relationships.

    I’d like people to reconsider that reaction, myself.

  10. Kaz
    Kaz January 17, 2011 at 5:58 pm |

    This is an awesome post. :) And thanks for linking me! (I’m the poster at Primary Decomposition, in case anyone’s wondering.)

    Asexual person here who’s actually stopped identifying as sex-positive because I got so sick of how many people I met who ided as sex-positive were incredibly nasty about asexuality and how silent mainstream sex-positive discourse was about asexuality. Which isn’t to say that they’re oppositional, and as you can see there are a lot of asexual people who id as sex-positive – just that I decided I’d been hurt enough by the label that I wasn’t going to wear it anymore (which isn’t to say that I’ve started being judgemental about people’s expressions of their sexuality! sex-positivity isn’t the same thing as being nonjudgemental.) Which is a pity, because I think done right the sex-positive movement and the asexual one have a lot to offer one another.

    From that perspective, I have to say – a lot of the time in sex-pos spaces I’ve felt as if even when asexuality wasn’t dismissed or demonised it was an afterthought or a throwaway, which is sad because I think sex-positivity needs asexuality. I think it’s a vital part of the discourse, because in order to truly work for everyone being able to freely express their sexuality you have got to make the low end of the sexual desire spectrum just as much a part of things as the high end. Otherwise all you’re doing is replacing one forced expression of sexuality with another by making sex and the desire for it normative. I’d also dearly love it if sex-positivism went beyond sex – I agree with everything David Jay says about celebrating connections instead of sex, and in fact lately I’ve been involved in some really amazing discussions in the asexual community about the forms such connections can take, about moving beyond the friend/romantic/family categorisation and queering platonic relationships that I think a lot of sexual people could benefit from as well.

  11. Jessica Isabel
    Jessica Isabel January 17, 2011 at 6:07 pm |

    This is quite a thought-provoking article. One of my dearest friends identifies as asexual, and so when thinking about issues of sexuality and feminism, I tend to think in terms of freedom of choice rather than a one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to public perception of female sexuality.

    However, I think it’s pretty clear that in terms of larger movements/trends, I have worked with a few feminist organizations in the past few years, and I know that one of the major frustrations (speaking specifically as an American from the Northeast whose experience comes from women of color-focused groups) is that there isn’t very much room for nuanced platforms when you’re trying to reach a wide audience. It seems that for them, they tend to look for the approach that will appeal to the most people most of the time. As is often case, that approach leads to the marginalization of minority groups.

    As it stands on the flip side though, my friend that I mentioned is one of the most ardent feminists I know. It’s a shame that while she defends the right to open sexuality of others, her own asexuality is marginalized as being weird, or worse, a symptom of a psychological issue (which she does not suffer from).

  12. Minerva
    Minerva January 17, 2011 at 6:14 pm |

    Thank you, Chally, for writing this! And thank you for linking to my site as well. I think I’d definitely have to echo Charles’ sentiment. Fully embracing and integrating Feminism’s stance on whole female personhood is what allowed me to stop thinking that I had to fit into a sexual norm. It’s what allowed me to finally accept myself as an empowered asexual women. Thus I’ve always thought that Feminism was about supporting the choices women make in their lives no matter what those choices look like, not recapitulating the notion that some choices women make are better than others.

  13. Antonomasia
    Antonomasia January 17, 2011 at 6:52 pm |

    I’ve not read loads about asexuality, and only met a couple of people who openly talked about being asexual, so maybe I’m speaking from an ignorant viewpoint.

    But asexual / sexual sounds like such a binary opposition whenever I read about asexuality. Presumably there’s a continuum, as with gay/bi/straight orientations? And then what about people who are enthusiastically sexual at times, but usually prefer to direct their interest and energy elsewhere?

  14. ozymandias
    ozymandias January 17, 2011 at 7:20 pm |

    I think asexuality is a vitally important issue for everyone who considers themselves sex-positive to consider. Essentially, to the best of my understanding, sex-positivity is the belief that there should not be any stigma around any free sexual choice (i.e. one that involves non-coerced, fully honest consent from all parties involved). And that means that not having sex– whether it’s due to asexuality, religious reasons, simply not liking sex that much or any other of a number of perfectly valid reasons– needs to be accepted as a free sexual choice.

  15. ozymandias
    ozymandias January 17, 2011 at 7:25 pm |

    Autonomasia– you’re quite right, there is a spectrum. Many people identify as gray-A (neither fully asexual nor fully sexual) or demisexual (sexual only in emotional romantic relationships). I believe the occasionally sexual would count as gray-A, if they wished to identify as such.

  16. Rawles
    Rawles January 17, 2011 at 7:54 pm |

    In the past few years, I’ve been increasingly bothered by the regular depiction by sexual feminists of women who do not choose to engage in high levels of sexual activity as “prudes” or “repressed” and needing to be liberated. Though I think it’s the way asexuality comes up on a social justice context as regards the handling of marginalized bodies in media that has been even more at the forefront of my mind.

    I’ve had a lot of problems with finding a way to critique exactly what you mentioned without the language coming off as being very dismissive of asexuality. One post in particular, I had to keep going back and tweaking and rewriting and changing again and again over the course of over a year because it was initially extremely difficult for me to break through, even identifying as asexual myself, the internalized prejudices (expressed through my language) presenting asexuality as a lack.

    Another issue making it quite thorny is that sometimes these characters are being read as being asexual, so there tends to be a conflict when it is suggested that these characters are not being written as a celebration or exploration or asexuality, but rather having their sexuality as a whole ignored.

    In short, it’s an extremely complex and nuanced intersection, but a lot of people aren’t giving any thought to it at all because being in some way sexual is perceived as the only “natural” way to be.

  17. ana australiana
    ana australiana January 17, 2011 at 8:31 pm |

    I thought I’d share this quote from Sara Ahmed. It’s not on the subject of asexual life as such but it does maybe resonate with the discussion :-)

    “I would question the distinction between “prosex” and “antisex” within some queer work. Such work tends to posit a new set of “sexual ideals” premised on liberation from what has become known as the moralizing terms of radical lesbian feminism (…). In fact, in reading backward from queer studies to the earlier work of radical feminism I was surprised to find that the most erotic and daring work, the work that moved me the most, was the earlier writing. I found the work of radical lesbian feminists both erotic and demanding, even in the mode of its critique between sex and power. Such lesbian feminists, in writing about male power, also search beyond their critiques for a new sexual vocabulary in which women’s desire for women can be put in other words [and, I would add, in which sexual desire in general can be put in other words, as far as that does not co-opt or appropriate spaces occupied by lesbian desire].

    Marilyn Frye, for example, calls for a sexual vocabulary that is open to the different possibilities for action when women’s bodies get closer: “Let it be an open, generous, commodious concept emcompassing all the acts and activities by which we generate with each other pleasures and thrills, tenderness and ectsasy, passages of passionate carnality of whatever duration or profundity. Everything from vanilla to liquorice, from pure to chanteuse, from velvet to ice, from cuddles to cunts, from chortles to tears” (1990:314). In offering a vocabulary for lesbian sex, Frye and other radical lesbian feminists embrace how lesbian orientations can take many social and sexual forms precisely because they do not depend on the terms available within existing sexual vocabularies.”

    – Sara Ahmed, Queer Phenomenology: Orientations, Objects, Others, pp.194-195.

  18. Tom Dorian
    Tom Dorian January 17, 2011 at 8:42 pm |

    Thank you for this.

    I actually came here tonight looking for the article entitled “Why everyone should have pre-marital sex” (turns out it was on Feministing). It’s nice to see someone address the discomfort I feel with the “dark side” of sex-positivity.

  19. David
    David January 17, 2011 at 9:28 pm |

    I always thought that feminism was about freedom. If you want to have sex with 5 people, 10 people, no people, men, women, anything not on this list, it’s all good.

  20. Astrid Chelonian
    Astrid Chelonian January 17, 2011 at 9:38 pm |

    “Demisexual” means you are only sexual in relationships of trust, according to the AVEN wiki page. OK so that means that having a “whole” sexuality means that you have to be capable of divorcing your need for emotional involvement and trust from your sexual desire, right? That’s just silly. I mean if people want to identify themselves as demisexual, obviously that’s their right. But as someone who reserves sex for relationships of trust, please don’t label me too. Because I think that assumption is bullshit. I am not “half” anything just because I think sex is best in a relationship.

  21. Shoshie
    Shoshie January 17, 2011 at 10:42 pm |

    Becca Stareyes: It seems like the depiction of not-conventionally-attractive-and-fit*/minority characters as non-sexual and the stigma against asexuality in ‘healthy’ (aka not these things) characters/people are two signs of the same coin: that the culture that produces them basically sees interest in sex as ‘normal’, so all ‘normal’ people want it and for anyone to not want it, they must be damaged in some way, or otherwise undesirable.

    This, totally. As a sexual, Jewish, fat acceptance activist, I struggle a lot with stereotypes of Jewish women and fat women as anti-sex or undesiring of sex. And, implicitly, undesirable. I think that this all comes from the same root cause– controlling acceptable sexuality as a means of controlling marginalized people. You don’t get to pick your own sexuality, it’s chosen for you. And if you deviate from your chosen sexuality, then you’re seen as problematic. You’re uppity or disgusting or a tease. You need to be shown your proper place, how the kyriachry thinks you should desire or acquiesce to other people’s desires.

  22. Wednesday
    Wednesday January 17, 2011 at 10:57 pm |

    I know Thursday wrote about asexuality a while ago, but it’s rare to see asexuality discussed on feminist blogs (or at least, without fail — was anyone around when ONTD_F made a complete spectacle of itself when ace people were called dysfunctional, disabled, or sex-negative? Ugh.).

    Thanks for this article, Chally! I love it when your name shows up in my RSS reader, because I can always expect brilliant, think-making writing. :D

  23. Miss S
    Miss S January 17, 2011 at 11:05 pm |

    demisexual (sexual only in emotional romantic relationships)

    I know quite a few women (myself included) who are making the conscious decision not to have sex outside of relationships or marriage. I suppose this label would apply, although most of us just say celibate.

    I think this is a good discussion. I’m wary of the sex positive ideology for this reason- it assumes that being sexually liberated means having sex, and usually alot of it. Sexual liberation means finding what works for you and what makes you comfortable.

  24. Vampireseal
    Vampireseal January 17, 2011 at 11:51 pm |

    “Why is having sex, or being in a sexual relationship, such a marked site of societal anxiety? ”

    Thank you. This question has been plaguing me for years. Like many others on here, I’m asexual. I have always been a sex-positive person–it bothers me not in the least what other people do, and I want them to be fulfilled and happy. It’s just not for me. Much like square dancing and bungee-jumping–fun wonderful activities, but for other people, not me.

    Why sex can’t be viewed this way has puzzled me ever since I learned of sex. People have thought of me as repressed, but no one deems a person who dislikes polka music as repressed. I just wish society would loosen up its attitudes towards sex. I feel as if in spite of the sexual revolution, in some ways, American society is still prudish, but in a different way.

    Has anyone read “Female Chauvinist Pigs’? by Ariel Levy? She addresses the current trend towards a mainstream acceptance of female liberation through sexual activity, but the trend is only towards a specific form of sexual expression. In a sense, a society that tells us that Girls Gone Wild = sexual liberation is already defining for us what sexual liberation is according to a narrow idea of sexuality. It is just as oppressive and narrow in its own way, as Victorian attitudes of women’s sexuality.

  25. sehkmet
    sehkmet January 18, 2011 at 12:07 am |

    I have never heard the term “asexual” before. This a groundbreaking event for me. The post and comments have been very enlightening. I’ve never heard a term that describes my sexuality before.

    You have my profound thanks.

  26. ozymandias
    ozymandias January 18, 2011 at 1:25 am |

    sekhmet– The obvious source, of course, is AVEN, the Asexual Visibility and Education Network. I’ve lurked on their forums; they’re really lovely.

    Miss S– That is not quite, to the best of my understanding, what the term means. AFAIK (and I am not asexual so if I’m getting it wrong someone please correct me), demisexual means not just that you save sex for emotional romantic relationships, but that you are incapable of being attracted to people outside of same.

  27. Miss S
    Miss S January 18, 2011 at 2:33 am |

    but that you are incapable of being attracted to people outside of same.

    What does this mean?

    Hope it doesn’t seem like I’m turning this into a 101, but I want to make sure I’m using the right language.

    Is celibacy a form of asexuality?

  28. tree
    tree January 18, 2011 at 2:39 am |

    Wednesday: I know Thursday wrote about asexuality a while ago, but it’s rare to see asexuality discussed on feminist blogs (or at least, without fail — was anyone around when ONTD_F made a complete spectacle of itself when ace people were called dysfunctional, disabled, or sex-negative? Ugh.).

    oh, you mean when ace folks were told we had a mental illness or we were seeking attention? or what we really needed was to get raped! that was an enlightening experience.

    the problem, of course, stems from where or not asexuality falls under the queer umbrella. some people think it does, and other people are adamant that it doesn’t. it just so happens that the ONTD_F mods fall into the latter category.

  29. SlightlyMetaphysical
    SlightlyMetaphysical January 18, 2011 at 5:07 am |

    Chally- thanks for this post and the one after this (which also taps into some asexual, or at least aromantic, issues in a positive way).

    Miss S: The best place for 101 right now is the AVEN FAQ:
    http://www.asexuality.org/home/general.html

    Briefly, and because I think I can keep it kinda on-topic, asexual means not sexually attracted to anyone, in the same way that other orientations are defined by sexual attraction. When it’s brought up outside of an asexual space, the conversation tends to revolve around ‘not wanting sex’, which applies to a vast majority of asexuals, but is an annoyingly simplistic definition.
    (this is a general criticism of what I’ve seen, by the way, not a criticism of the post above, which is clearly written by someone who gets the asexuality=sexual orientation thing)

  30. Kaz
    Kaz January 18, 2011 at 6:27 am |

    tree:
    the problem, of course, stems from where or not asexuality falls under the queer umbrella.some people think it does, and other people are adamant that it doesn’t.it just so happens that the ONTD_F mods fall into the latter category.  

    Isn’t it always fun to see sexual people deciding they are the best possible authority on whether or not asexual people experience oppression. No asexual people need bother explaining what they think about the matter, relating their experiences or even correcting their obvious misconceptions and wrong beliefs about asexuality – the sexuals have got it covered. Even if the first time they heard about asexuality was five minutes ago.

    For people who are having trouble with things like the definition of asexual or demisexual, I recommend the AVEN FAQs and the AVEN Wiki. The latter has pages on sexual attraction and on demisexuality which you may find helpful. I also suggest this rebuttal to a post claiming demisexuality was anti-queer which lays out a lot of the issues, but you might have to familiarise yourself with some ace vocabulary and foundations of dialogue etc. before that’s comprehensible. (Although, I think familiarising yourself with ace vocabulary and the community is a good thing in general! There’s important stuff in there, okay.)

    Back on topic – I would like to second what Sciatrix said about demonising asexual people in relationships with sexual people. In my experience of talk about sex and consent and relationships outside of asexual spaces, asexual/sexual relationships and similar desire mismatches are either ignored entirely or have the lower desire partner demonised or dismissed in some way. This is a very big issue for our community and rarely do I ever see someone even trying to look at it from the asexual’s point of view.

  31. Sciatrix
    Sciatrix January 18, 2011 at 7:20 am |

    Wednesday: I know Thursday wrote about asexuality a while ago, but it’s rare to see asexuality discussed on feminist blogs (or at least, without fail — was anyone around when ONTD_F made a complete spectacle of itself when ace people were called dysfunctional, disabled, or sex-negative? Ugh.).Thanks for this article, Chally! I love it when your name shows up in my RSS reader, because I can always expect brilliant, think-making writing. :D  

    I remember that ONTD_F thing. “Asexuals aren’t really oppressed like gay people are! Incidentally, all asexual people need is a good raping!”

    By the end of it I was rather hoping that certain people’s minds would explode from all the cognitive dissonance, but alas.

  32. Norah
    Norah January 18, 2011 at 8:36 am |

    Heh, demonising asexuals who are in relationships with non-asexuals is actually part of what I want to write about for the Carnival about Asexuality and the Autism Spectrum. I always feel apologetic in many ways when I write about my relationship which then afterwards just makes me angry.

  33. Kaz
    Kaz January 18, 2011 at 8:45 am |

    Okay, I somehow missed sekhmet’s comment, the hell.

    First off, congratulations and welcome to the wild and wacky world of identifying as ace! *offers cake* :D I think we’ve all been there in terms of “wow, there are other people than me who feel this way?” so I’ll do my best to help re: resources and communities.

    AVEN’s been recommended, however I should warn that I and other people I’ve spoken to have had bad experiences on the forums in terms of people playing more-asexual-than-thou and tone arguments. It *is* the largest asexual community by far and very focussed on visibility/education type stuff, and the Wiki and FAQs are good (in fact, the FAQ is specifically aimed at people discovering their possible asexuality so you may find it very helpful) just… be aware that that’s going on. The asexuality LJ community is pretty active, I had a resource collecting post for non-AVEN communities about two months ago which you might find helpful things on, apparently there’s some stuff going on on tumblr but I am not familiar with tumblr so I can’t help there. There’s also the an asexual blogosphere – I think just checking the blogrolls of a lot of the blogs linked in the post will let you find this – that’s not very 101/finding out you’re asexual focussed but you may still find the discussions useful.

    The one thing I would urge you to remember in all of this is that asexuality is an incredibly wide and varied orientation and is not the same for any two people, so don’t feel that you have to identify with everything (or anything!) other ace people say about how they feel and how their orientation looks for them.

  34. randomosity
    randomosity January 18, 2011 at 9:06 am |

    Seconding Kaz about sexuals defining asexuality. I had one of those lovely conversation in which someone was trying to define asexuality for me. Friend was a very enthusiastic sexual and claimed to dislike labels but was having a field day trying to define me after I came out as an asexual.

    I’m also as extreme an asexual as there is. Hearing about the ONTD_F fail (first I’ve heard of it) is blowing the squick meter sky high.

  35. Tom Dorian
    Tom Dorian January 18, 2011 at 10:06 am |

    Again, thanks for this post. Friendships are just as meaningful to me as romantic relationships (and I know I’m not the only one who feels this way!) yet the one is strongly privileged over the other in, at least, American society.

  36. CBrachyrhynchos
    CBrachyrhynchos January 18, 2011 at 10:31 am |

    Sciatrix:
    That’s not what I wanted to talk about, though. What I wanted to talk about is that every time I see this come up on a feminist or sex-positive site, the asexual person in such a relationship–theoretical or not–is almost immediately demonized, usually in the comments. Forget nuance, I have seen people portray such asexuals as evil people deliberately entrapping good normal sexual people into sexless (and by implied extension) loveless relationships.
    I’d like people to reconsider that reaction, myself.  

    Dan Savage is among the worst at this by framing that practically every limit in a relationship is something that the other person is going to mourn deeply.

    I’ve felt for a while that the sex-positive movement has pretty much gone off the rails and needs to be reborn as something else. Originally it was based on the premise that we need to talk about sexuality because there’s no such thing as a normative sexuality or sexual relationship we can take for granted. Now it’s primarily advocacy of “good, giving, and game.”

  37. Nightsky
    Nightsky January 18, 2011 at 11:26 am |

    Thanks for this thread. I’m asexual myself, and it’s always jarring and disappointing to be mistaken for a prude or a shrivelled-up husk of lovelessness. Even Dan Savage was all “lol wtf asexuals?!” when someone pointed out our existence to him.

    FWIW, I don’t think we’re oppressed so much as ignored. My least favorite thing is the strange views imputed to me: that I’m some kind of religious nut auditioning for sainthood (atheist, actually), that I’m an anti-sex nut (I’m aware that I’m in a sexual minority, and am sex-positive), that I’m a lesbian in deep denial (no, and I do get the occasional celebrity crush, always on men) or else I just have impossibly high standards, that I was abused as a child (I had an idyllic childhood), or whatever. I just AM this way, and have been ever since I can remember. When the kids started pairing off in middle school, I didn’t. I waited patiently for that part of me to wake up, the way it had in everyone else, but it just… never did. For a while I felt weird about it; now I just don’t think about it much. Never mind that I’m a 33-year-old virgin; I have a sex life that makes me happy.

    Besides, I get to sleep sprawled out diagonally across the bed. Nothing beats THAT.

  38. Miss S
    Miss S January 18, 2011 at 3:21 pm |

    Thanks for the links, all.

  39. Clarisse Thorn
    Clarisse Thorn January 18, 2011 at 4:07 pm |

    A while back an asexual blogger linked to one of my posts on consent, and I thought their post was really great, so here it is:
    http://chroanagramal.wordpress.com/2010/08/05/sexuality-sexism-and-why-i-care/

  40. Sex-Positivity and Asexuality: Bringing Them Together | Good Vibrations Magazine

    […] post about the relationships between sex-positivity and asexuality over on feministe.com caught my eye. And before I knew it, I was reading this post and this newsletter from the […]

  41. AK
    AK January 18, 2011 at 5:44 pm |

    OK first things first, I haven’t read the comments so skip this if that bugs you (like it usually does me!). But I know from past threads on this site there’s bound to be lots of good info in the comments, so I wanted to post my uninformed viewpoint. So:

    I just want to add my thanks for bringing this up. I’m not sure if I would consider myself asexual, as this is honestly the first time I’ve heard the term outside of scientific communities talking about botany and such (ie. asexual reproduction). But I am one who has often felt alienated by sex-positive feminists.

    I am happily married and have sex frequently with my partner, and I enjoy it. But I don’t masturbate (though I have in the past, mostly because I thought I “should,” not that it wasn’t enjoyable–it was, just not necessarily something I would do on my own), and if I’m not having sex (like for the 5 years of my marriage that my partner spent overseas) I just…don’t have sex or masturbate. I occasionally become mildly aroused, but I don’t really act on it, and I don’t miss sex when I’m not having it. Even now, I initiate things fairly often, but it’s not so much for me…it’s more like, yeah, sex would be okay right now, and I know my partner would like it if I came on to him. I was this way from puberty. I remember in middle and high school, my friends were fascinated by boys and sex and all that, and while I did a bit of experimenting, again mostly to fit in, it was never a big deal to me.

    I’m not ashamed of my body or my sexuality; in fact I’m quite proud of both and don’t feel like I have to change myself to meet others’ expectations. I was raised in a loving, accepting family that I’d almost call sex-positive if not for current connotations–for example, I have a much older sibling who spent a decade completely celibate for spiritual reasons and I was raised to understand that was not only okay, but that it would be okay to have lots of sex with as many or few partners as desired for spiritual reasons as well, or to not have sex or have lots of sex for non-spiritual reasons. In other words, my family rocks.

    I have been sexually abused as an adult, but it doesn’t affect my sexuality anymore and I was like this before that happened. I have always hated sex-positive sites which seem to imply that I’m somehow damaged or prude because I don’t masturbate and don’t seek out sex that isn’t offered, except to “please my man” (which I have heard often, and resent–I have sex when I’m not overwhelmingly aroused, sure, but I say no as well and he respects that, and I do usually get off when we make love…as I said, it’s not that I don’t enjoy sex). I don’t think most people who meet me would call me prude and I don’t think I am, and I’m certainly not damaged. I believe that if my partner were to drop dead tomorrow, I’d probably live the rest of my life single and celibate, not out of some mourning widow bullshit but because due to my tendency to not require sex I just don’t see the need to get into another intimate partnership.

    And hell, we have 5 “families” (ranging from a wife-husband-kids family to single men and women) living on our ranch, not including us. Several were my friends before I moved here, or before I met my partner. I’d consider my relationship with them as deep and meaningful as I do with my partner, even though there is nothing sexual at all involved. In fact, I have wondered whether I would have felt the need to marry if I had had the same community 15 years ago, but I don’t dwell on it because I am happy with my life and my relationships.

    I’m all for a feminism that celebrates deep and meaningful bonds, whatever they may be. I might sound like a hippie, but isn’t it supposed to be about love and compassion? Recognizing everyone as an individual of equal worth, and every loving and respectful relationship as something important, now, that’s a goal worth striving for.

  42. Miss S
    Miss S January 18, 2011 at 6:12 pm |

    AK, your comment made me think of the ‘enthusiastic consent’ idea, and how someone who isn’t overtly sexual may not always be enthusiastic, but still interested and willing.

    The best, and most comfortable sex I’ve ever had has been in relationships with men I trust and respect. Even then, I don’t know that it’s always enthusiastic. I may be interested, but a little tired, etc. You know?

  43. bellereve
    bellereve January 18, 2011 at 7:58 pm |

    This is a great post on an important topic. My sister recently came out to me as asexual, and says that while she has found a bit of support online, she still feels weird and alienated, because most people don’t understand and keep pestering her to “experiment.”

    Echoing what others mentioned – I think we need to end two pervasive assumptions: one, that all romantic relationships or individuals NEED sex to be fulfilled, happy, healthy, and complete, and two, that an asexual person is obligated to sexually satisfy their partner.

  44. A rising tide lifts all linkspams (19th January, 2011) | Geek Feminism Blog

    […] Not social justice from where I’m standing: The upshot here is that asexual people get hit particularly hard as being repressed or messed up, standing in the way of a singular social justice narrative around sexuality. […]

  45. Sina
    Sina January 19, 2011 at 12:22 pm |

    Thank you for posting this. As someone who’s openly identified as an asexual for the last six years, I fully believe asexuality is a topic that needs more recognition.

    I almost always see asexuality brought up as a negative and inaccurately. For example, a disabled character or character of colour in a television show might be denied sexuality or coded as non-sexual.

    I have to agree that the portrayal of my orientation in the media tends to be overwhelmingly negative. I can’t think of a single asexual character on American television who isn’t a villain, an alien, or ‘broken.’ It’s like the writers simply can’t imagine that a normal, healthy person could ever be asexual, so clearly any asexual character has to be othered in several ways in order to emphasize their abnormality. It’s both infuriating and insulting.

  46. Shawn Landis
    Shawn Landis January 20, 2011 at 8:18 pm |

    ——————————————————–
    I don’t think asexual issues are seen as feminist issues
    ———————————————————

    As an Asexual male, I think this statement unintentionally implies that Asexual issues should be seen as feminist issues.

  47. Shawn Landis
    Shawn Landis January 23, 2011 at 2:13 am |

    I think, much like I had to, you need to go back and see what you are actually saying. I thought I missed a few lines of text at first.

  48. How Inclusivity Fails For Asexuals « Writing From Factor X

    […] social justice So I got linked to on Feministe last week. And if you haven’t read the post there, you really should, because it’s notable for a) being written by someone who is clearly […]

  49. Sex-Positivity and Asexuality: Bringing Them Together | Charlie Glickman

    […] post about the relationships between sex-positivity and asexuality over on feministe.com caught my eye. And before I knew it, I was reading this post and this newsletter from the […]

  50. Shawn Landis
    Shawn Landis January 26, 2011 at 10:58 am |

    You have made a logical error and it’s one all writers do from time to time. You’re assuming the reader will make the same logical connections you have or assume you know what they talk about.

    The fact that some issues may overlap does not change that the issues are not the same.

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